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Don Larsson:
 
I appreciate the game you're playing with the term 'film noir', and much
that you say.  Permit me one last time to clarify what we now know about
the scope and limits of defining terms (coincident with much that you
say), and hence to reaffirm the unique achievement (to date) of Damico's
specification.
 
Strictly speaking, a definition of term must give both the necessary and
sufficient conditions of its application.  As we now know, however, from
the work of Quine and Wittgenstein in particular, no useful listing of
necessary conditions can be given for any empirical predicate (i.e.,
things found in the world have no essences; as Wittgenstein put, any two
things falling under an empirical term must bear a 'family resemblance' to
one another, but that does not entail that all things falling under it
have anything in common).
 
It follows, therefore, that no definitions of empirically useful terms can
be given, for no exhaustive listing of necessary conditions is possible.
We are left then with the task of specifying SUFFICIENT conditions for
their use as means toward whatever ends we can clearly foresee, and that
implies that the conditions be TESTABLE as means to those ends.
 
Damico, however unintentionally, got it right: his specification is
listing of conditions which he believes to be SUFFICIENT to ensure the
construction of a movie which would be 'film noir'; it is not, and is not
meant to be, what can never be given, namely a listing of necessary
conditions for a movie being 'film noir'.
 
He has no interested therefore (and quite properly so) in ensuring that
every movie which is 'film noir' conforms to his specification.  Rather,
he is concerned with exactly the opposite, namely to ensure that every
movie which conforms to his specifications is 'film noir'!  If he has
managed to achieve that end, then he has provided something valuable,
namely a tool for use by filmmakers who wish to construct films which are
'film noir'.
 
It is therefore no counterexample to Damico's work to list movies which
you or anyone else agree to be 'film noir' which do not conform to his
specification.  What would be a counterexample to his work, and a most
interesting achievement, would be to find a movie which conforms to his
specification, but which, by common consent, could not reasonably be
construed as being 'film noir'!  For then we would have discovered a
limitation on the scope and limits of the proper use of the tool Damico
has provided, and would then be a position to propose refinements of it to
eliminate the imprecision.
 
Conversely, of course, it would be equally interesting to construct a
listing of SUFFICIENT conditions for movies being 'film noir' which is
different from Damico's while being equally testable, but which
encompasses a wider range of films we agree to be 'film noir'.  My
suggestions to you for amending Damico's specification to avoid (e.g.) the
particularities of gender which he built into it was intended as an
improvement in exactly this latter sense: the resulting specification
would continue to encompass, as required, a proposed listing of SUFFICIENT
(and hence testable) conditions for constructing movies which would be
found unexceptionally to be 'film noir', but which encompasses a wider
range of films which I think we would mutually agree to be 'film noir'.
 
It is precisely because Damico's specification was intended to encompass
SUFFICIENT conditions that it is testable, and hence useful.  The problem
with a listing such as your own, which encompass a set of features often
found in movies we agree to be 'film noir', but which are also found in
many movies which by common consent are not 'film noir' is that the
listing is untestable.
 
It is a measure of the lasting interest of Damico's work that, as a
proposed listing of SUFFICIENT conditions for a movie being 'film noir',
it was testable from the day he put it forward, unlike any other
contribution to the discussion with which I am acquainted, before or
since, and remains uncontroverted to this day.  To my knowledge, no film
conforming to his specifications(!) has failed to be 'film noir'.  His
proposal therefore remains, for me, a USEFUL contribution to the theory of
genre design for filmmakers, and, sad to say, almost uniquely so.
 
Again, thanks for initiating this discussion, and thereafter contributing
to it, in the open and credible manner the subject deserves.  Should you
ever put in writing anything firm on the matter, I would be most
interested in receiving a copy of it.  Best wishes!
 
 
Evan William Cameron                            Telephone: 416-736-5149
York University - CFT 216 (Film)                Fax:       416-736-5710
4700 Keele Street                               E-mail:    [log in to unmask]
North York, Ontario
Canada  M3J 1P3
 
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